Country Report Swaziland January 2008

The political scene: Courts are still to rule on legality of police union

The High Court has not yet handed down judgment on the application by the Swaziland Police Union to force the government to have it registered. The government had refused to recognise both the police union and the Correctional Services Union, arguing that the formation of the police union would erode discipline in the police force and that the exclusion of the police from mainstream labour legislation was a legitimate limitation of their rights (April 2007, The political scene). However, such unions are commonplace in many other countries. The police application was heard in April 2007, and on October 31st public service unions marched on the High Court demanding that the judgment be handed down. It is widely held that the lengthy delay is due to pressure from the traditional rulers. The police application is regarded as a test case for the Bill of Rights, which guarantees freedom of association, and for the constitution, which designates the courts as the ultimate interpreters of the constitution. The courts are receiving growing criticism for being overly cautious in dealing with cases concerning the constitution and for resorting to the tactic of a full bench to hear such cases for fear of reprisals from the traditionalists.

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